The OFT has this morning issued a ‘call for evidence’ on the UK private motor insurance industry. Concerned that comprehensive car insurance premiums are reported to have risen 40% in the last year and that consumers in Northern Ireland face significantly higher premiums than elsewhere in the UK, the OFT is considering whether any aspects of the private motor insurance market raise competition or consumer issues.

The OFT notes that the FSA has previously raised concerns about the fair treatment of consumers who buy insurance on price comparison websites and is currently consulting on proposed guidance for businesses operating those sites. The OFT itself also published a report in December of last year into protecting consumers online.

Somewhat unusually, the OFT is proceeding using general powers under section 5, seeking voluntary responses to specific questionnaires targeted at insurers, credit hire providers, vehicle repairers and price comparison sites. The OFT is seeking evidence by 12 October and hopes to publish a summary of its findings by the year end. What happens next will be driven by the evidence gathered, but the OFT is not ruling out launching a market study, seeking voluntary action from the industry or even making a reference to the CC on specific aspects.